Two separate incidents on runways at different airports in North America highlight that even when planes are on the ground, there is a risk of runway accidents causing injury to passengers and crew. Although many people ignore the warnings that when a plane is taxiing on the runway, they must remain seated and wearing their seatbelt, passengers aboard planes at Pearson Airport in Toronto, Canada, and JFK airport in New York, might heed that warning more strongly. Luckily, there were no injuries to any passengers in either accident, but they still show that there are risks for commercial airline passengers whether in the air or on the ground.
WestJet and Sunwing Planes Collide at Pearson Airport
On Friday, January 5, at around 6:20 p.m. passengers aboard a WestJet plane had to evacuate their aircraft quickly after a Sunwing plane, which was being towed from its gate, hit WestJet Flight 2425, which was waiting to proceed to a gate after arriving from Cancun. All 168 passengers and six crew members on the WestJet plane were forced to evacuate on the emergency slide. They were then taken into the terminal for customs processing.
There were no passengers or crewmembers on the Sunwing plane as it was towed from the gate. Swissport Canada Handling Inc. has said its staff was responsible for moving the Sunwing plane.
“The incident occurred when our employee was pushing back the plane from the gate,” wrote Pierre Payette, vice president for operations in Toronto. “The impact caused a small fire in the empty aircraft’s exterior generator, which was quickly extinguished by the fire department.”
Pics of the collision @TorontoPearson where the wing of @WestJet#WS2425 struck the tail of a Sunwing aircraft (which caught fire) at Terminal 3. @TSBCanada deploying a team of investigators. pic.twitter.com/MtUb9P3dI9
According to reports, it took 18 minutes for emergency crews to put the fire out.
One of the pilots on the WestJet flight issued a mayday call.
“Mayday, mayday, mayday, WestJet 2425 we’re evacuating,” the pilot said. Immediately following his mayday call someone else is heard on the call saying, “We’re on fire.”
There were no injuries to anyone on the WestJet flight, although a member of the Toronto Pearson Fire and Emergency Service was injured and taken to a local hospital. He was released from the hospital and expected to recover.
Canada’s Transportation Safety Board is investigating the incident. They will interview passengers, the flight crew, and other staff involved in the incident before they release any details about what might have caused the plane collision.
Witnesses Describe Chaos During WestJet Flight 2425 Emergency Evacuation
Passengers onboard the WestJet flight say that initially following the collision they laughed about the situation and were slightly shocked. Shortly after, though, the scene turned to chaos.
“Panic set in when [we saw] what seemed to be fuel spewing from the crash,” said Gustavo Lobo, a passenger on the WestJet aircraft. “After a couple of seconds the entire thing ignited and it was chaos inside the plane. People screaming and panicking all while the flight attendants shouted to try and control the situation.”
“There was fire and fuel in that wing,” said Ali Alagheband, a mechanical engineer who was also on the plane. “It wasn’t a good situation.”
After making it off the plane, passengers say they weren’t given any direction on what to do or where to go, so they ran away from the planes toward a security hut. Michael Bennett, who was also on the WestJet plane, says passengers were confused, traumatized and underdressed for the weather. He said staff at the airport did not do enough to help out the people who were on the WestJet flight and called the experience after the crash “aggravating.”
Passengers on other planes at Pearson Airport said they could smell the fire, but weren’t sure where it was coming from. Their flights were delayed, but they say they weren’t told what was happening.
Two Boeing 777’s Clipped Wings At JFK Airport In A Similar Runway Crash
Shortly after the collision at Pearson Airport, a similar accident happened at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York. At around midnight on Saturday, January 6, a China Southern aircraft that was being towed hit Kuwait Airways Flight 118, which was parked while waiting to takeoff for Kuwait. According to reports, the right wing tip of the China Southern plane struck the tail of the Kuwait Airways aircraft. The Kuwait Airways flight was canceled due to the Boeing 777 being inoperable after the crash.
The #PAPD Aircraft Rescue Fire Fighter Unit (ARFF) responded to Terminal 4, JFK, last night; a China Southern 777’s wing tip struck the tail end of a Kuwait Airways 777 causing damage to both aircraft. #PAPDPROTECTSNYNJ | pic.twitter.com/1g2isyyHD4
There were no injuries in that crash, and everyone was able to leave the plane safely. Passengers were taken to nearby hotels to wait for other flights.
Kuwait Airways and officials in New York are investigating the crash, which added to a backlog of flights and chaos at JFK airport, thanks in large part to a massive snowstorm.